Huge late season cock fish from Svalbardsa. Photo Jón Þór Júlíusson.
Svalbardsa is a medium volume river in Thistilfjordur, one of the remote fiords in the northeast corner of Iceland. Rugged and wild are the words best attached to the landscape and scenery. Our Hafralonsa is one of the neighboring rivers and is comparable in all but the volume as Hafralonsa is a substantially “bigger” river. The characteristics of this river is it’s remoteness and the angler is unlikely to encounter so much as a wandering farmer except perhaps on the bottom beat were there are a few farmsteads. Also the great chance of catching a really big fish. All the rivers of Thistilfjordur, four in all, are well known locally for their high average weight, sometimes exceeding 9-10 pounds which means that mws’s are dominant. The weight goes down slightly during seasons when the grilse runs are strong but the chance of a monster, 18 pounds plus in pounds, is always there and even if you don’t catch them you will certainly see them.
A Storifoss canyon. Photo Jón Þór Júlíusson.
Svalbardsa’s best beat is the top one, the Storifoss pool aprox 17 kilometers from the sea, and the pools in the canyon below. These pools require quite a bit of walking as well as fighting salmon, often big ones, in difficult terrain, as the banks and riverbed are strewn with huge boulders and the river is fast flowing. So this is more a river for the fit and adventurous. Having said that though, the lower beats are easily accessable and simple to fish.
Svalbardsa is fished with two to three rods according to the time of the season. The middle and bottom beats are good producers as well, especially the middle one featuring Svalbardsselshylur and lower Eyrarhylur. The river, from top to bottom, is a joy to fish with light tackle despite of the big fish. Perhaps even in spite of them as fighting a 12 to 16 pounder, let alone a bigger one, on a single handed rod with a light line, leaves fond and long lasting memories. And perhaps a stiff elbow!
The Storifoss and several pools below. Photo Jón Þór Júlíusson.
Despite being remote the river is still not THAT remote as daily flights can be made to either Akureyri or Vopnafjordur, leaving a 2-3 hour drive to the river. As said, for most of the season the river is fished with three rods but it is quite common that clients buy all three rods and then fish the river with two. It is a wonderful river for family fishing or small groups of friends that want to sample wilderness fishing on their own. The river has a luxurious newly built lodge which is self catering although full service can be arranged.
Svalbardsa is a strictly catch and release river and at the start of any season we fully expect the river to attain 300 salmon. During leaner seasons this total may well be obtained as the river has a high percentage of multi caught salmon. Svalbardsa has the highest average we have ever come across although it must be said that little research has been done in Iceland on that matter. Last season individual groups had an upto 50 percent of their catch from formerly caught and tagged fish. One group fishing over two days late in the season hooked and landed ten salmon. Five of them were previously caught. If a catch and kill system were in place these people would have caught five salmon and seen far fewer. So this is the sort of river were catch and release ups the quality of the fishing beyond any reasonable doubt.